Word of the Week
October 22, 2022
Meteōrizō: Always Up in the Air
And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying.
Worry is not God’s will for a Christian. That’s why He specifically instructs us, “Be anxious for nothing” (Philippians 4:8). Jesus peppers the Sermon on the Mount with reminders that God takes care of flowers and birds. They don’t worry, and we don’t need to worry.
So I’m not surprised when Luke 12:29 instructs us, “Do not keep worrying.”
However, I am startled when I look at the Greek word for “worry” in this verse. Jesus chooses an unusual term that appears only here in the New Testament.
It is the word meteōrizō. The English word meteor jumps to mind. Is the Lord telling me not to act like a meteor? You might also think of the word meteorology. Is Jesus thinking about the weather forecast?
If it’s not about meteors or meteorologists, what does it mean?
We will have to look outside the New Testament to discover the meaning of meteōrizō .
The core meaning of meteōrizō is “to raise something, to suspend something in mid-air.”
It can describe physical objects:
- Raising the high walls of a fortification
- An eagle soaring high (Obadiah 4 LXX)
- A rising wind
- A ship launched from the dry dock into the open sea, where it floats high above the ocean floor.
- Angelic beings lifting off the ground (Ezekiel 10:16 LXX)
Meteōrizō, of course, also applies to the human soul. Even though you can’t physically raise up a person’s spirit, it’s certainly possible to be “lifted up” emotionally or spiritually.
The word has two figurative uses:
- It can describe someone who is “lifted up” with pride. This goes beyond merely giving someone hope and raising their spirits. It describes someone with an inflated sense of self-importance.
- It can describe a person who wavers or fluctuates, always agitated, sliding way up or way down like a ship tossed about by storm-driven waves.
To use colloquial descriptions, the first person is “uppity,” and the second person is “up in the air.”
In the context of Luke 12:29, we are almost certainly looking at the second meaning.
Let’s look at the verse with this meaning in mind. Jesus tells His disciples, “Do not spend your life pursuing physical needs like food and drink.” If you put your focus there, you will constantly swing from the heights to the depths. Every time you get good news, you’ll be elated. Every time the news is bad, you’ll be depressed. The storms of life will make you spiritually seasick.
Providing for food and drink is not sinful. But making that pursuit the central goal of your life is a recipe for misery. As a friend of mine used to say, “Happiness is like a greased pig. The harder you try to grasp it, the more quickly it will slip out of your hands.”
Jesus acknowledges that most of the world operates this way – “For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek.”
But Christians choose a different path. They remember that “Your father knows that you need these things.” And instead of pursuing temporary things, they “seek for his kingdom,” trusting that a loving God will care for them. “All these things shall be added to you.”
As I go through life, I will sometimes be disappointed. My emotions will dip. At other times, good news will give me a lift.
But Jesus says, “Fix your attention on the Father and His kingdom, and you won’t have to live like an out-of-control kite, battered by updrafts or nose diving toward the ground. You can be an eagle soaring through the storm with stability.
With a word like this, we must resist the impulse to draw a definition from the English words that have developed from it over the centuries. It doesn’t mean meteor, meteorite, or meteorology. Instead, we need to go back to the first century to observe the way it was used back then. Since this word only appears once in the New Testament, we had to look up the way it was used in secular Greek. This is a little more work, but there are many reference tools that will provide the information you need.
The Latest Word from Japan
My wife and I have finished our first week in Japan and I can no longer use jet lag as an excuse for mistakes. We have attended a Japanese church service, hiked a mountain trail, helped to teach two English classes for children and shared tea and talk with two pairs of Japanese women who are exploring the gospel. Today we watched a two-hour karate demonstration that featured things like archery and tatami-mat slicing – events I’ve never seen in the U.S. This week’s word study comes from our 2018 archives and we will pull out another favorite from the past for next week. May you be blessed as you pursue truth in the New Testament!
©Ezra Project 2022